- Winter Olympics - Day Six
Golden girl shines at downhill skiing
American glamour girl Lindsey Vonn overcame the weight of expectation to claim gold in the alpine skiing women's downhill at Whistler Creekside on day six of the Vancouver Games.
She has been called the face of these Winter Olympics due to her winning looks and winning ways, and victory here in the first of her five events sets the 25-year-old up for an unforgettable Games.
A heavily bruised shin could barely reduce the daylight between Vonn and her nearest competitor, USA team-mate Julia Mancuso who came in more than half a second behind Vonn's winning time of 1:44.19. Mancuso's performance shouldn't be discounted - she put almost a full second between herself and bronze medalist Elisabeth Goergl of Austria - but she was beaten by an Olympic legend in the making on the day.
"I came here, I got what I came here to do, I got a gold medal," an ecstatic Vonn said. "I have what I want and I'll just keep fighting every day. It's definitely a huge relief that I finally did it. This is everything that I ever wanted and hoped for."
It was a day for big names and big performances, with Shaun White living up to his massive hype in emphatic fashion at the men's halfpipe. The snowboarding genius saved his very best for last, unleashing a huge first run in the final that no other competitor was able to match with the best of their two efforts.
As if that was not enough, having already won gold, he used his spare second run to turn on the style with a combination of double corkscrew 1080s and a double McTwist 1260 to nail a near-perfect score of 48.4 out of 50. The Flying Tomato's unbelievable performance will surely go down as one of the most memorable and dominating displays in Olympic history.
Finland's Peetu Piiroinen and White's USA team-mate Scott Lago celebrated their silver and bronze medals as if they were gold and silver, which they would have been without the presence of a true superstar in White.
It was raining medals for the Americans on Wednesday, with short track star Shani Davis successfully defending his 1000m title from four years ago. Davis' world record didn't come under threat, but he still needed a quick time of 1:08.94 to get past Korea's Mo Tae-Bum and team-mate Chad Hedrick, who spurred each other on in an earlier race-off to register what would turn out to be the silver and bronze medal times respectively.
Meanwhile, there was Olympic spirit at its best on show at the women's individual sprint classic in cross country skiing, where Slovenian Petra Majdic fought back from a horrible accident to claim a bronze medal.
Majdic somehow managed to tumble off the course and down a small cliff in the warm-up before her quarter-final, injuring her ribs on some rocks. But she battled through her quite visible pain to win her quarter, qualified as the last finalist through the semi-finals and pulled out a mighty effort to hold on for bronze.
"I think I fought so hard for the medal, because it was Slovenia's first," said the 30-year-old. "I fell about three metres down a bank and landed on rocks. This bronze is a gold for me with little diamonds. I never seem to have luck at the Olympics, but I have been training for this for 22 years and I knew I would never get another chance. But at least I have a medal."
Classy racer Marit Bjoergen claimed Norway's first gold medal of these Games while Justina Kowalczyk grabbed silver for Poland in a tight finish.
In other results, Austrian brothers Wolfgang and Andreas Linger broke Germany's strangehold on the luge by winning gold in the doubles. Latvian siblings Juris and Andris Sics slid in for silver, while Germany at least made the podium with Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch taking bronze.
Nikita Kriukov beat Alexander Panzhinskiy in a dramatic photo finish at the men's individual sprint classic at Whistler Olympic Park, with both Russians kicking their leading leg forward in a desperate lunge for the line. The benefit of that tactic was illustrated perfectly as Kriukov won it by a toe. Norway's Peter Northug scored bronze.
Wang Meng beat Marianne St Gelais to grab gold in the women's 500m speed skating finals, disappointing the thousands of Canadians on hand but no doubt pleasing the millions of Chinese across the Pacific. Bronze went to Italy's Arianna Fontana.
The Brits were in action on the curling sheet, where a youthful new crowd has given the traditionally low-key sport a party atmosphere. The emergence of curling as a showpiece rather than sideshow event at the Winter Olympics could be one of the stories of Vancouver. Great Britain's men thrashed France 9-4 on Wednesday while the women edged out China 5-4 and still had another tight match against Sweden to complete.